Forming Relationships in India

Valencia Meredith - India


April 9, 2017

Making friends is definitely not my forte. I’m a pretty awkward person. At times I even hold a conversation. So when I am able to make a genuine connection with a person, I don’t want to let that go.

While living in India, I’ve had the chance to make these connections with people outside of my cohort. This has been my greatest accomplishment so far- to be able to form friendships with people who’ve grown up in an entirely different environment and culture that I am use to. I was able to make friends with people of all age groups, religion, and economic backgrounds. All of which, who’ve have made my time worthwhile in India.

My first friend was a 12 year old beggar girl. When I first saw her, my I initial reaction was to turn around and look away. It was the ‘normal’ thing to do. Then one day she happened to make eye contact with me and she walked up to my rickshaw. I watched as she stared at my hair, so I decided to let her touch it. After letting her touch my hair, she has become quite comfortable to me. Now as I sit in my rickshaw, she will walk up to me and give me a nice smile or wave.

My next friend is a 16 year old high school student. I happen to meet her at an annual day at the school that I work at. During the annual day, she invited me to come to her school to hang out and have lunch with her and her friends. Some how, I ended up having a session with her ENTIRE class about global citizen year, America, college, etc. Since then, we’ve stayed in contact and she visits me every now and then.

My co-Parker, Nikhil (aka Paul), is a 23 year old South Indian who happens to have the same music taste as me. Our love for rap music and good tv shows, brought us together. Our friendship started off as shallow conversations such as hi, how are you, blah blah. To- have you listened to this song?!? (Nine times out of ten I have heard the song). Nikhil is definetly the person I feel the most comfortable with. Honestly, without him, my time in India might not have been as fun (I hope he doesn’t read this).

My TFI mentor Natasha, is a 20 something year old English teacher. She has lived in Pune all of her life. I had a great time working beside her in the classroom. During the school day she and I, as well as other teachers, would go out during our break and eat street food while having a fun and engaging chat. I don’t know about other fellows and their relationship with their mentor, but I think I’m quite lucky to have bonded with her well enough to now consider her my friend.

My newest friend, Aayushi, is a 23 year old up and coming comedian. I met her through another fellow. Aayushi doesn’t know this, but she is my role model. She’s accomplished so much at such an early stage of her career. She started off as a fashion design student, to a make up artist, to a comedian who was featured on buzzfeed. She has showed me that I do not have to follow only one path, I can take multiple at the same time.

My oldest (age wise) friend is a 50 something year old man who works at a stationary stop on my street. Our friendship developed during my lowest point during my time in India. I was running out of money and I needed a few supplies. Most people would have told me that they could not help me, but this man gave me these materials for FREE. He didn’t think twice about it. I will always be forever greatlful for that. Now when I see him, we’ll have a short chat about our day or we’ll give each other a simple wave and smile.

As my time in India comes to a closing, I’ve had a short, but intense, time to reflect over my friendships with these amazing people. I’m sad that I will be leaving them to move across the world to start my new life. Though a new journey of my life is starting, there impact will always be a part of me.

Valencia Meredith